Hit and run is a serious criminal charge in Texas when a person is accused of not stopping after a car crash involving death, injury, or property damage. It is also known as leaving the scene of an accident. The offense can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the degree of damage or injury.
The police can charge you with leaving the scene of an accident if they are able to link a particular vehicle to the crash, then show that you were driving that vehicle. They may use license plate numbers from witnesses and physical evidence, such as paint transferred during the crash, to identify the vehicle, and fingerprints or your own injuries to connect you to the car.
A charge of leaving the scene (hit and run) can be initiated by a letter from the police informing you that you are a suspect, and they would like to question you, or as a criminal citation mailed to you.
If the case is serious enough, the prosecutor may choose to seek an indictment from a grand jury to charge you with felony hit and run.
Your Responsibilities after a Car Accident
The Texas Transportation Code requires that every person stop and take certain actions following a crash that results in property damage or injury. To avoid a criminal charge of leaving the scene of an accident:
- Accident involving injury or death – Stop or immediately return to the scene to render aid, provide your personal information, and show your driver’s license if requested.
- Accident involving damage to a occupied vehicle – Stop as close as possible without obstructing traffic, render aid, provide your personal information, and show your driver’s license if requested.
- Accident involving damage to an unattended vehicle – Stop and locate the driver or owner and provide your contact information, or leave a note in a conspicuous place providing your information and the circumstances of the crash.
- Accident involving damage to fixtures or highway landscaping – Stop and take “reasonable steps” to find the owner or person in charge of the property, provide your contact information, and show your driver’s license if requested. If the damage is more than $1,000, file a report with law enforcement.
Failure to do so in any of these cases can get you arrested and held until you can see a judge.
This is important to remember: You may be afraid to stop because you’re worried that you could get sued if you file an accident report. But Texas state law specifically says that statements you make when filing a report cannot be used in a civil suit.
Texas Hit and Run Laws: Criminal Charges and Penalties in Texas
Leaving the scene of an accident involving death or serious injury is a third-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years in a state prison. If the injury is not serious, it is a felony punishable by up to one year in a county jail or up to five years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Hit and run involving damage to an occupied vehicle is a Class C misdemeanor – with a fine of up to $500 – if the damage to all vehicles is less than $200, and it is a Class B misdemeanor, up to six months in a county jail, if the damage is more than $200. The same penalties apply for hitting a parked car and leaving and for damaging fixtures, or landscaping without stopping or reporting.
Penalties for a Hit and Run Conviction in Texas
If you are found Guilty, you can reasonably expect to receive probation, or community supervision, in a hit and run case, provided it is a first offense, no one was killed, and you have not previously been convicted of a felony. Otherwise, you may have to serve at least a short term in jail or prison if convicted.
A conviction also may result in the suspension of your driver’s license, especially if the crash caused serious injury or death.
As with any criminal offense, the potential consequences are serious, and we are here to help. Hit and run cases are often made using physical evidence and eyewitness statements, providing us with two avenues for argument.
We may be able to challenge the witness identifications in your hit and run case as inaccurate or mistaken, and argue to have the physical evidence suppressed if we can show that it was collected from your car in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.